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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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What Tech Tools Should Be Required Knowledge for Teachers?

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

A recent #edchat discussion was about what amount of technology teachers should be required to know. What ensued was a great discussion without talk of a lot of specific applications or tools. I found this very telling.

When we talk about digital literacy or transliteracy in the context of our students, rarely do we discuss what apps or tools they should know how to use. More often we talk about the skill sets they need to be successful in the digital world in which they live. Tools come and go, but being able to see the forest for the trees is a life-long skill.

Similarly, teachers should have a bigger picture in their heads of the whys and whens of technology, not just specific tools. In addition, there needs to be a culture within the school that values technology use in the classroom. Simply requiring that teachers use x, y or z application or tool (i.e. interactive whiteboard) will not transform that teacher's instruction or the learning in their classroom.

Instead, the leadership in the school should be modeling the use of technology and helping to build community supports for teachers that enable and value daily the effective use of technology for teaching and learning.

That said, if only for their practice, there are a few things that teachers should know:

  • compose and check email and know how to attach files to an email
  • know that there are more choices than Google for searching the Internet
  • be able to locate resources on the Internet and be able to evaluate sites for accuracy and relevance
  • know how to navigate, find, save and open files and applications on a computer of any OS.

But don't take my word for it. ISTE has done a great job of developing a set of educational technology standards for teachers. They go beyond the tool and really address the bigger picture of technology in the classroom and in professional practice. You can check them out: ISTE NETS for Teachers.

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Heather's picture

Mary Beth,

It is interesting your blog was the first one I saw today as I just submitted a paper for my masters discussing the need for higher technology in my school. I agree with your thoughts that technology is often viewed as what skills students need to learn. The broader scope is what tools and applications should students be introduced to and eventually learn the in's and out's of in an effort to futher their learning and skills? More often, students learn how to type using a Microsoft Word program, change font and text but rarely understand the broader purposes of this particular tool, especially in their further education and upcoming careers. PowerPoint is another tool widely used, but rarely is it discussed in depth for its versatility. Students understand they can incorporate photos and text to slides, make interesting transitions occur and explore their creative side to their hearts content. However, they are not learning the impact a well-designed presentation can have in a job setting, or when presenting to a group of peers.

I am fascinated by the technology available and disheartened by the honest fact that many corporations are sorely underprivileged to the stellar tools and applications that could be utilized. Furthermore, I agree that teachers need to understand certain skills and be able to fluidly use specific tools in their every day. I know certain teachers who still struggle with a copying machine. This baffles me. Being more technologically sound than some of my fellow colleagues, I find myself being sequestered for my knowledge of certain tools, systems or programs. I do not mind helping my colleagues, but what I have grown to understand is the need to TEACH THEM instead of doing the actions for them. I often ask myself, "What is the best way I can help this person so they can learn from this situation?"

Your blog has lit yet another spark in my ever whirling mind. I plan to discover the versatile uses for many tools/applications available to my students and attempt to redirect my teaching in a way that focuses on the tool itself more than the skills. Through developing learning about the tools, the skills students need to acquire will follow suit.

Thank you for your insightful thoughts! You have challenged my thinking and added fuel to my passion and determination.

Heather

Karen Reynolds's picture
Karen Reynolds
Seventeen year first grade teacher in Woodstock, Georgia at a public school

When I began teaching in 1989, there was little technology in the classroom. I didn't even have a computer in my classroom until 1997. It wasn't until 1999 that I had more than one computer in my classroom. I now have my own laptop, 5 student's classroom computers and a smart board in my room. I can't imagine not teaching without the available technology. My first graders love my interactive lessons that incorporate the smart board! I have an interactive lesson for every curricular area, daily. I just received the smart board this school year. I was a little intimidated to learn how to use it. However, once my colleagues showed me how, I look forward to executing my lessons, daily! It sounds as though you too were a skeptical towards technology use in the beginning. Please remain open minded. The students respond so well to technology; moreover, it enhances your instruction.

Sarah's picture

Mary Beth,
I really enjoyed reading your blog and the relevance of technology in education today. It's amazing how many new "toys" they have available to teachers.
Our school just ordered Memios for every teacher and I am so excited to implement them into my lessons. I teach first grade and the engagement and excitement my students exhibit when we use the interactive lessons is amazing. Although my students are only six it is unbelieveable the skills they have on a computer and the ability to maneuver through websites and online games.
I look forward to incorporating the new technology in my classroom and the reactions my students will have.

Thank you for sharing your post.
Sarah

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